Archive for March 25th, 2004

Our Preciouuusss


As as the
cardboard boxes climb towards the ceilings and the passageways of our
apartment become more and more obstructed with suitcases, packing cases
and garbage bags, the flashes of disorienting panic get more frequent
and severe.

We are so not ready. Too much to do and too little time.
Who will take the cats? Where has #2 son disappeared to now? Why hasn’t
the holes in the walls of his room like he promised?

We try to calm ourself by getting busy with packing; packing boxes, packing
suitcases, and packing our iBook with all of the digital culture we can
get our hands on.

So far, on this tiny 5-pound, 12-inch device with a
60 GB hard drive, in preparation for the Great Experiment, we have stored
the entire output of William Shakespeare, all 14 books in the Frank Herbert’s
novels by Dan
Brown, including "The DaVinchi Code" and "Angels and Demons" (which we
are more than halfway through and hope to finish and delete before leaving
the country), hundreds of short stories and 8 novels by Philip K. Dick,
a recent rip of Pynchon’s "Gravity’s Rainbow",(in our humble opinion
the greatest novel
the English language and worth rereading for a fifth time), hundreds
of seafood recipies and card games, every issue of "The Incredible X-Men"
published between 1993
and 2003,
3 full seasons of the Simpsons, movies like Kill Bill, The Lord of the
Rings (II & III),
The Butterfly Effect, and 21 Grams, the last three episodes of the Sopranos,
the first 6 episodes of TV classic The Prisoner, over 2,000 individual
music, several computer programs we have been dying to get better at
using, like Adobe Photoshop (with "Secrets of the Photoshop Pros") and
Macromedia Flash (with "Creating Animations in Flash") and several games,
like "Diablo II" and "Baldur’s Gate" which we have never had the time
to learn enough to survive more than a few minutes before getting slaughtered.

Plus, as we write, there are a number of computers strewn around the
Greater Boston area which are busily downloading and compiling further
digital detritus for our possible perusal, as we STILL have over 30 gigs
of available space on our hard drive. We have started to think of our
iBook as a digital ark, carrying much of what we consider the epitome
of modern
art and culture to enrich our three months on the beach and in the mountains
in Ecuador.

Part of this digital archive was obtained "legitimately", via educational
discounts and public domain downloads. However, a lot of the material,
especially the music and video, was obtained through P2P programs like
Lime Wire and Bit Torrent. For the purposes of this discussion, our use
these tools is purely academic and investigational, and all of these
files will be promptly deleted after a single painstaking review to
make sure they are as advertised, complete and uncorrupted.

We are currently exploring the capabilities of Bit Torrent, a "next generation"
P2P file sharing program which purportedly makes it easy to download
large files (video mostly) more efficiently. It is still somewhat hard
to use, time consuming and unreliable, making it favorite of unreliable,
undergraduate geeks.

Despite the availability of some copyright-free torrents and the efforts
of visionary programmers like Andrew Grumet to integrate bit torrent
into practical next generation applications like independent video broadfeeds
and aggregation, Bit Torrent at this point is still primarily a pirate

This may have something to do with our enthusiasm for the idea. We are
attracted to anything with a wiff of the outr?, outlaw, rebel or iconoclast.
the word "Pirate" itself brings to the Dowbrigade’s mind more of the
demented jocularity of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Carribean than the
present-day reality of, for example, murderous modern Maylays who waylay
yachts and trawlers and rape and pillage and leave no
witnesses. Downloading movies and TV shows via Bit Torrent has
that elusive air of cutting edge danger and risk to which we are unfortunately
still addicted, even in advancing middle age.

However, so far the RIAA and other guardians of cyber-chastity do not
seem to be actively persuing Bit Torrent users, perhaps because of the
nature of its P2P connections and the fact that the technology is still
so hit and miss frustrating that it is beyond the technical capacity
or patience threshold of the far majority of internet users. The list
of media captured in our iBook that opened this post represents but a
of the "torrents" we have attempted to download over the past two weeks.
We are willing to bet that at this very moment there are dozens of brilliant
nerdy undergraduates vying to become the next Mr. Napster by creating
a dependable, attractive and easy-to-use implementation of the BT protocol.
When one of them succeeds, we are sure the RIAA will sit up and notice,
because it will become wildly popular.

Meanwhile, we are amazed at the capacity of this little machine to find,
acquire and store the essence of what passes for "culture" in the Dowbrigade’s
world. After thinking about this we have concluded that it would be theoretically
possible to recreate almost all of Western civilization exclusively from
the contents of a single 60 gig hard drive.

Thought of in another way, should a xeno-anthropologist in the far, far
future, long after the disappearance or transmogrification of the human
race, somehow come into possession of a single functional hard drive
from our era, he or she or it would be able to study and understand the
21st century homo sapien world better than all any of the academics of
today are able to understand past cultures through the study of the art,
literature, architecture , relics ruins and remains available to academics
today. If the hard drive in question belonged to the Dowbrigade, the
reflected view of society might feature lots of robustly unencumbered
female figures and seemingly silly flights of fancy, but who is to say
that these are not as representative of the tenor of our times as the
formula for interferon or the fine points of counterinsurgency?

Meanwhile it is scary the degree to which my worldview and emotional
well-being are becoming dependent on this five-pound slab of plastic,
metal and silicon. Over the next three months it will be our companion,
our post office, our library, our TV, our newsstand, our juke box, our
confidant, our journal, our game chest, our worthy opponent in games
and puzzles, our cookbook, our darkroom, our calculator, our telephone,
our scrapbook, our window on the world and our lifeline to our past.
It seems a miracle that one object can fill so many roles and desires.
Our preciouuusss.

Of course we realize the mistake, the sin, the trap of becoming so attached
to a mere physical object. Permanence is an illusion, the worship of
technology is a sickness, and pride in possessions is a karmic quagmire.
Considering how deeply we have sinned it would indeed be a miracle if
the miraculous iBook survives the trip to South America without being
stolen, dropped, drenched, forgotten, confiscated, sat on, short-circuited or

But hey, it’s the persistent possibility of miracles that makes life
worth living.

Bring Me the Head of George Mackenzie


– A teenage boy pretended to perform a sex act on a head which had been
from a body in a graveyard tomb, a witness told a court today.

The 15-year-old girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, also told the High
Court in Edinburgh that Sonny Devlin, 17, was "chucking the head around".

It is alleged that on June 30, 2003, they forced open the entrance to
the Mackenzie Mausoleum in the city’s Greyfriars Cemetery.

witness, who was going out with the younger of the accused at the time and is
still dating him, told the court that
a member of a group
of "goths" had said to her group, "Do you want to go
and get the head of George Mackenzie?"

from This
is London

Soap Opera


Software is to include IBM’s embedded speech recognition technology ViaVoice
in the next version of its Web browser.

Web users will be able to navigate, request information and complete Web forms
by speaking, which should offer added convenience as more users access the
Web on smaller, mobile devices, Opera said.

Hey, Opera, open my bookmarks folder.  Now open subfolder named
"Cheesecake". Now open the fourth link. Right, now scroll down the page.
Whoa! Back up! Click on the the
NOT there!
Now click!
Now scroll down.  Click on the word "Enter". Of course I am over
21, you have my date of birth in your database! Now, scroll down sloooowly.
Ohh yeah, stop stop stop. Right there. Copy picture to clipboard.
What do you mean that’s not permitted? Has Norma Yvonne been messing
with your permissions again?

from theRegister